Black Swans prefer large permanent swamps and lakes where they feed on aquatic plants and algae.
Black Swans prefer large permanent swamps and lakes where they feed on aquatic plants and algae.

BIRD OF THE WEEK: Elegant black swans and where to find them

The Black swan is a large elegant waterbird that is black all over with a bright red bill that has a white band around the tip.

There are white tips to the wings which are usually only seen in flight.

Both sexes are the same colour but females are slightly smaller with juvenile birds being a dull brown rather than black and cygnets being off white in colour.

The males are called ‘cobs’ and the females ‘pens’.

They prefer large permanent swamps and lakes where they feed on aquatic plants and algae.

They build a nest from a large pile of reeds, grasses and aquatic plants in shallow water and will breed any month after rain.

While male and female mostly mate for life there are occasions, when food is scarce, that two males will build a nest and entice a female to lay her eggs before driving her off.

Even in a male/female pairing research has shown that around one third of the cygnets are sired by other males.

After breeding they lose all of their flight feathers and are unable to fly for about a month.

This is a normal moulting process that replaces vital flight feathers.

Being such a large bird means they need about 40 metres of open water for take off when they will run along the water flapping their wings to get airborne.

They have a musical bugle-like call that is often heard when they are flying in a large ‘V’ formation.

These ‘V’ formations are used when they migrate in large flocks to find swamps and lakes that have good water.

They are quite common and can be seen on large, open and deep bodies of water at places such as Baldwin Swamp Enviro Park.

Allan Briggs is the secretary of BirdLife Capricornia, contact him with your birding questions at abriggs@irock.com.au

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